[Agenda] EU vaccine fundraising kicks off This WEEK

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Worldwide efforts will be made to find €7.5bn for a possible cure for Covid-19. The commission will also flesh out its estimates of the coming recession.

EUobserver

This week is kicking off with, on Monday (4 May), the EU commission co-hosting a fundraising event to try to collect €7.5bn to help develop treatments and a vaccine for Covid-19.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) called to speed up the development of vaccines, treatment, and testing capacity, at "affordable prices" for everyone.

This pledging event will take place in cooperation with Saudi Arabia, which holds the current presidency of the G20, as well as the US, France, Germany, Norway, and the UK.

On Tuesday, EU ministers responsible for telecom issues will discuss the use of tracing apps and electronic communication data for tackling the coronavirus crisis.

Semantic fund

The same day, employment ministers will talk, online, about the national measures taken or foreseen to mitigate the negative impact of the crisis on labour markets.

On Friday, eurozone finance ministers will hold a videoconference after EU leaders signed off their plans for a more than €500bn economic plan to help offset the looming economic crisis.

However, this will not be the week when the EU commission presents its latest plans for the next seven-year budget, including the recovery initiative, which last week has been downgraded by commission spokespeople from being called a "recovery fund".

The linguistic downgrade probably also foreshadows smaller political and economic ambitions.

The commission will come forward on Thursday with its spring economic forecast for the EU economies, which will be an important indication on the executive's experts' estimate of the economic downturn.

MEPs grilling

On Monday, fearing no agreement on the budget soon, MEPs in the budget committee will discuss and adopt amendments to a safety net to protect the beneficiaries of EU programmes by setting up a contingency plan for the EU budget.

The same day, MEPs in the internal market committee will hear from commission vice-president Margrethe Vestager on Covid-19 related economic action, mainly on state aid and how it will affect the single market and competition in the long term.

Thursday will be a key day to watch in Prague too.

MEPs on the budget control committee will discuss a mission report on the Czech Republic, where prime minister Andrej Babiš has been accused of conflict of interest over EU funds. Babiš denies any wrongdoing.

The MEPs, tasked with making sure EU funds are well spent, are expected to suggest that Babiš should stay away from negotiations over the next long-term budget due to concerns over conflicts of interest.

The Czech PM has been criticised for his relationship with Agrofert, an agricultural company he founded and which has been hoovering up millions of EU funds.

The EU's anti-fraud agency, Olaf, has earlier also investigated allegations that a farm and hotel complex linked to Agrofert, which Babis no longer runs, had misused EU funds.

MEPs want to prevent Agrofert from receiving EU funds until the prime minister's links with the company are clarified.

Legal affairs

On Thursday, the legal affairs committee will hear from justice commissioner Didier Reynders.

The same day, MEPs on the civil liberties committee will grill home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson on issues ranging from Schengen and asylum, to migration and security.

They will also discuss the use of personal data in the fight against Covid-19 with Wojciech Wiewiórowski, the European Data Protection Supervisor, and Andrea Jelinek, chair of the European Data Protection Board.

Balkans

The Western Balkans summit in Zagreb should have been the flagship event of Croatia's EU presidency.

Sadly, due to the pandemic, the gathering of Western Balkan leaders from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, the Republic of North Macedonia and Kosovo and EU leaders will now take place online on Wednesday.

In late March, EU leaders agreed to open negotiations on EU membership with North Macedonia and Albania.

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